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Where the Digital Economy Is Moving the Fastest


The transition to a global digital economy in 2014 was sporadic – brisk in some countries, choppy in others. By year’s end, the seven biggest emerging markets were larger than the G7, in purchasing power parity terms. Plus, consumers in the Asia-Pacific region were expected to spend more online last year than consumers in North America. The opportunities to serve the e-consumer were growing – if you knew where to look.

These changing rhythms in digital commerce are more than a China, or even an Asia, story. Far from Silicon Valley, Shanghai, or Singapore, a German company, Rocket Internet, has been busy launching e-commerce start-ups across a wide range of emerging and frontier markets. Their stated mission: To become the world’s largest internet platform outside the U.S. and China. Many such “Rocket” companies are poised to become the Alibabas and Amazons for the rest of the world: Jumia, which operates in nine countries across Africa; Namshi in the Middle East; Lazada and Zalora in ASEAN; Jabong in India; and Kaymu in 33 markets across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Private equity and venture capital money have been concentrating in certain markets in ways that mimic the electronic gold rush in Silicon Valley. During the summer of 2014 alone $3 billion poured into India’s e-commerce sector, where, in addition to local innovators like Flipkart and Snapdeal, there are nearly 200 digital commerce startups flush with private investment and venture capital funds. This is happening in a country where online vendors largely operate on a cash-on-delivery (COD) basis. Credit cards or PayPal are rarely used; according to the Reserve Bank of India, 90% of all monetary transactions in India are in cash. Even Amazon localized its approach in India to offer COD as a service. India and other middle-income countries such as Indonesia and Colombia all have high cash dependence. But even where cash is still king, digital marketplaces are innovating at a remarkable pace. Nimble e-commerce players are simply working with and around the persistence of cash.

To understand more about these types of changes around the world, researchers developed an “index” to identify how a group of countries stack up against each other in terms of readiness for a digital economy. The Digital Evolution Index (DEI) is derived from four broad drivers:

  • supply-side factors : including access, fulfillment, and transactions infrastructure;
  • demand-side factors : including consumer behaviors and trends, financial and Internet and social media savviness;
  • innovations : including the entrepreneurial, technological and funding ecosystems, presence and extent of disruptive forces and the presence of a start-up culture and mindset;
  • institutions : including government effectiveness and its role in business, laws and regulations and promoting the digital ecosystem.

The resulting index includes a ranking of 50 countries, which were chosen because they are either home to most of the current 3 billion internet users or they are where the next billion users are likely to come from.

As part of the research was to understand who was changing quickly to prepare for the digital marketplace and who wasn’t. Perhaps not surprisingly, developing countries in Asia and Latin America are leading in momentum, reflecting their overall economic gains. But the analysis revealed other interesting patterns.
Take, for example, Singapore and The Netherlands. Both are among the top 10 countries in present levels of digital evolution. But when considered the momentum – i.e., the five-year rate of change from 2008 to 2013 – the two countries are far apart. Singapore has been steadily advancing in developing a world-class digital infrastructure, through public-private partnerships, to further entrench its status as a regional communications hub. Through ongoing investment, it remains an attractive destination for start-ups and for private equity and venture capital. The Netherlands, meanwhile, has been rapidly losing steam. The Dutch government’s austerity measures beginning in late 2010 reduced investment into elements of the digital ecosystem. Its stagnant, and at times slipping, consumer demand led investors to seek greener pastures.

Based on the performance of countries on the index during the years 2008 to 2013, researches assigned them to one of four trajectory zones: Stand Out, Stall Out, Break Out, and Watch Out.

  • Stand Out countries have shown high levels of digital development in the past and continue to remain on an upward trajectory.
  • Stall Out countries have achieved a high level of evolution in the past but are losing momentum and risk falling behind.
  • Break Out countries have the potential to develop strong digital economies. Though their overall score is still low, they are moving upward and are poised to become Stand Out countries in the future.
  • Watch Out countries face significant opportunities and challenges, with low scores on both current level and upward motion of their DEI. Some may be able to overcome limitations with clever innovations and stopgap measures, while others seem to be stuck.


Break Out countries such as India, China, Brazil, Vietnam, and the Philippines are improving their digital readiness quite rapidly. But the next phase of growth is harder to achieve. Staying on this trajectory means confronting challenges like improving supply infrastructure and nurturing sophisticated domestic consumers.

Watch Out countries like Indonesia, Russia, Nigeria, Egypt, and Kenya have important things in common like institutional uncertainty and a low commitment to reform. They possess one or two outstanding qualities — predominantly demographics — that make them attractive to businesses and investors, but they expend a lot of energy innovating around institutional and infrastructural constraints. Unclogging these bottlenecks would let these countries direct their innovation resources to more productive uses.

Most Western and Northern European countries, Australia, and Japan have been Stalling Out. The only way they can jump-start their recovery is to follow what Stand Out countries do best: redouble on innovation and continue to seek markets beyond domestic borders. Stall Out countries are also aging. Attracting talented, young immigrants can help revive innovation quickly.

What does the future hold? The next billion consumers to come online will be making their digital decisions on a mobile device – very different from the practices of the first billion that helped build many of the foundations of the current e-commerce industry. There will continue to be strong cross-border influences as the competitive field evolves: even if Europe slows, a European company, such as Rocket Internet, can grow by targeting the fast-growing markets in the emerging world; giants out of the emerging world, such as Alibaba, with their newfound resources and brand, will look for markets elsewhere; old stalwarts, such as Amazon and Google will seek growth in new markets and new product areas. Emerging economies will continue to evolve differently, as will their newly online consumers. Businesses will have to innovate by customizing their approaches to this multi-speed planet, and in working around institutional and infrastructural constraints, particularly in markets that are home to the next billion online consumers.

We may be on a journey toward a digital planet — but we’re all traveling at different speeds.

Short video about this article :

Shanise Abhelakh

Pillory anno 2015

Unless the form is changed over time the concept is been known for centuries: the pillory of a person. When a person did something wrong he or she was punished for that by “the public”. During the Stone Age rocks were thrown, in the Middle Ages rotten food was thrown at people and now, during the “digital era” there is a new way to let people be punished by the public: Social media.

Shaming is a quite new phenomenon, but can have very big impact on both people and companies. Just a little mistake, an inappropriate tweet or post can go viral in a very short time. Most of the time the effects are irreversible and can ruin a person or company totally.

For example the case of Justine Sacco: She was 30 years old, senior director of corporate communications and had only 170 followers on twitter. Right before she boarded for her flight from London Heathrow to Cape Town she tweeted: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”. Her tweet went viral and (off course) not in a positive way. While she was asleep, during her flight she became the nr. 1 trending topic on Twitter. When 11 hours later her flight landed the damage was already done.

Her Twitter feed was filled with angry tweets and it went worse and worse.

“In light of @Justine-Sacco disgusting racist tweet, I’m donating to @care today”

“How did @JustineSacco get a PR job?! Her level of racist ignorance belongs on Fox News. #AIDS can affect anyone!”  

“I’m an IAC employee and I don’t want @JustineSacco doing any communications on our behalf ever again. Ever.”

And then one from her employer, IAC, the corporate owner of The Daily Beast, OKCupid and Vimeo: “This is an outrageous, offensive comment. Employee in question currently unreachable on an intl flight.”

Not only were people angry with her and was she target of a crusade against racism, the tone changed overtime into excitement and from there into entertainment.

“All I want for Christmas is to see @JustineSacco’s face when her plane lands and she checks her inbox/voicemail”

“Oh man, @JustineSacco is going to have the most painful phone-turning-on moment ever when her plane lands”

“We are about to watch this @JustineSacco bitch get fired. In REAL time. Before she even KNOWS she’s getting fired.”

In an interview she said: “I had a great career, and I loved my job, and it was taken away from me, and there was a lot of glory in that. Everybody else was very happy about that.”.

Another example was last summer with the killing of lion Cecil. Walter Palmer, the American dentist who paid 50.000 dollar to kill the lion was globally shamed for it. According to Dr. Peter Vasterman, media-sociologist social media are ideal to express indignation. First, because it is a easy to do and can be done immediately. Second the chance is quite big that you’ll find support from others. This has an amplifying effect. And there is a problem with the power of social media. According to Mr. Tempelman, IT attorney most people are hanged by the public before they are even convicted.

Hess & Waller conclude that in these digital times the shaming will increase and that for “ordinary” people there is almost no protection, regardless of the question if this person is guilty or not guilty. I think it is good to think about the consequences of “just sharing or retweeting” that one tweet or post. Like seen above, the impact can be way bigger what might be appropriate.



Hess, K. & Waller, L. (2014) ‘The digital pillory: media shaming of ‘ordinary’ people for minor crimes’, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural studies, 28,4, pp. 101-111.

Ronson, J. (2015) ‘How one stupid tweet ruined Justine Saccos life’, The New York Times Magazine, 15 February 2015: p. 20

Unknown author:

NOS op 3 (2015) ‘Als prooi overgeleverd aan de social media’ 31 July 2015. Available:


Making Talking Generate Next Billion Dollar

In February 2014, WhatsApp was sold to Facebook for an unbelievable figure – 19 billion dollars. Within the next few weeks, it was all over everybody’s blogs, Facebook statuses, lunch conversations, and even kids in school were talking about it. People could not understand that a company whose only product is a messaging app could be worth that much money.

4  1   2   5

WhatsApp is not the only messenger out there. Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, LINE, WeChat, and many others are also stakeholders in the industry. They proved to be a cheap alternative to operator-based text messaging via SMS, and they provide many more features that SMS doesn’t have. According to statistics, in August 2015, WhatsApp has an active user number of 800 million, Facebook messenger has 700 million, and WeChat has 600 million. If we just do a simple math and not include all added features that each messenger provides, all chat messengers have a combined valuation of over 200 billion dollars. That’s half of Google or 4 times more than Yahoo!.

Interestingly on the contrary side, all these messaging apps struggled to figure out their revenue model. Evan Spiegel, the co-founder of Snapchat, acknowledged in an interview the extreme difficulty of making a feasible one. Many internet companies are backed by ads revenue. Google, for example, revealed in their multiple annual reports that more than 90% of their revenue comes from ads. One of their many services, Google Adsense, analyzes a web page and provides advertisements that best fit the content of that page. However, most people on messengers send private messages to their friends, and it is impossible to insert any ad into the conversation. Out of privacy concerns, it is also unlikely to run algorithms on user’s messages to provide personalized recommendations.

Realizing this limitation, apps began to expand their service into other communication areas, such as emojis, playing games with friends, sending money, interesting new content, etc. This is a very successful first step. In 2013, LINE reported in their Q2 quarter report, that out of their $100 million quarterly revenue, game purchase and in-game purchase accounted for 53%, and emojis accounted for 27%. Snapchat is piloting the new discovery feature that pushes sponsored content to the user. With the existing ads before playing video revenue model, the company stated that their revenue is estimated at $50 million dollars this year.

In addition to these efforts, LINE and WeChat also aim to build up their own ecosystems. WeChat launched a feature to send money to multiple friends in January 2014. It targets the Chinese tradition of giving monetary gifts to friends and family for auspicious blessings on special occasions. On 2015 Chinese New Year’s Eve, more than 1.5 billion “red envelopes” were sent on a single day. WeChat also keeps a semi-bank account for a user. Besides sending money to friends from the account, the money could also be used to make purchase, refill phone cards, call a taxi, pay utility bills and many more. WeChat has built a successful image within China and it has penetrated into many aspects of people’s life.

In conclusion, the entire messenger ecosystem is very enormous. The user-to-user communication nature allowed exponential growth in the user base. With the vastly and constantly growing user base, companies are able to reach billion dollars valuation within a very short amount of time. The next step, to achieve their billion dollars revenue, companies are experimenting to expand their services into our daily life. LINE and WhatsApp have built up their ecosystem that allows users to call taxis, stream music, order foods, and we can predict soon other companies will have similar strategies to expand their verticals.

The Dell-EMC deal. Will it change the tech landscape?

One of the most important deals in the tech business this year is that Dell is purchasing the cloud- and data storage company EMC for about 67 billion dollars, which is around 24 dollars per share for the EMC shareholders. The merger of the two companies will allow Michael Dell to remain CEO and more importantly will allow for the diversification of Dell, which is essential for the company’s long term strategy, because the PC market is not as strong as it used to be, to put it mildly.



According to Business Insider the same merger could have happened in 2002, but Michael Dell personally stopped the acquisition talks; he was afraid of an acquisition so large right after the burst of the internet bubble, despite EMC being valued at around 16 billion dollars back then. However, at the time Dell’s strategy was focused on manufacturing as many PCs as possible at an extremely high profit margin, utilizing its economies of scale that was practically unmatchable at the time.

EMC may not be as widely known as Dell, but it is actually a very large company with more 70 thousand employees worldwide, providing very popular cloud- and data storage services. The company also owns the RSA digital security software analysis company and the major part of Vmware, which is a software virtualization company. According to leaked information about the details of the merger, Dell has agreed to keep Vmware as an independently operating company.

According to Daniel Ives, who is the Managing Director in the technology, media and telecom research group of the enterprise software company FBR Capital Markets & Co., FBRC, this is just the tip of the iceberg and many acquisitions will follow from large, traditional tech companies. He also mentions some actual examples that could potentially happen in the foreseeable future: 1. Cisco and NetApp, 2. Cisco and FireEye, 3. IBM and Splunk, 4. IBM and Tableau, 5. HP and Fortinet, 6. Microsoft and Salesforce, 7.Oracle and Netsuite.

Do you think that the Dell-EMC deal will have a long lasting effect on the tech industry?  Will it motivate other large, traditional tech companies to engage in large scale M&A deals that will significantly change the tech landscape? And more importantly, is it beneficial for the tech industry? What is your opinion on the matter?





DRM: Is it good or evil?

Recent hype about DRM

Recently, in Brussels an unusual committee session was held. JPEG committee discussed, whether  DRM (Digital Rights Management) protection should be added to digital images. In case of the DRM approval (luckily, this proposal was refused), it may happen that you won’t be longer able to set your favorite album cover picture as a wallpaper, because it may be DRM protected.

It reminds the situation with the banknotes. If you try to scan euros or dollars, the software of your scanner will recognize that it is a banknote and refuse to scan it <LINK>. Imagine what will be the consequences once DRM-protected pictures become widespread.

Defective by design

The dissatisfaction with DRM can be traced back even 10 years ago. For example, Free Software Foundation, NGO supporting the spur of free software, organized an initiative against DRM called “Defective by design” in 2006. The name of the initiative reflected the view at DRM.

Why do they think that DRM is so inefficient? The most common arguments are:

  1. What is the sense of punishing those who has already bought content? As only legal content can be DRM protected, this way the companies impose restrictions on those who really bought it.
  2. DRM locks in users on a particular platform. You may for example no longer be copy your e-book on your new device, if the previous device brand doesn’t match that of new.
  3. Locking in of users on one platform causes monopolization. Once switch costs from on platform to another got so high, you will no longer be able to negotiate price to the extent you could. It is applicable both for users and independent publishers.
  4. DRM software may cause lags. DRM-protected software works smoothly in most use cases, however, when you try to do something unusual as text-to-speech, the system will freeze.

Is DRM good for companies?

Tom Refenes, Super Meat Boy developer, claims that DRM causes more harm on a firm profitability than piracy does. He states that in the current market conditions there is no way to fight piracy. It simply exists and you cannot do anything with it.

Let’s take an example. You bought “Fifty shades of gray” for Amazon Kindle and it happened to be DRM-enabled. Let us assume, you Kindle broke, but you still have your old Pocketbook e-reader. You try to copy it over there and read, but you cannot. DRM-protection of Amazon allows you to read only on the devices operated  by the major operation systems, which is not the case of Pocketbook.

I have to underline, you are the one who legally bought the content. Will you be stressed in this situation? Will you buy DRM-protected content again, when you can download almost any book in few clicks for free illegally?

Therefore, companies risk to lose their sales from those customers who willingly paid in the past.


Bearing in mind, that piracy is really hard to beat today and DRM adds additional pressure on the users who are already paying decreasing their willingness to pay, it is rather evil than good.


Wonder which country is going to become the world’s first cashless nation?


Cash may no longer be a part of this country. This country might soon stop printing notes. With no notes, no coins, people in this country would have one of the lightest pockets in the world. Soon, attempting a paper money transaction at a bank in this country might provoke a suspicious stare or a report to the police.

Wondering which country it is? If you want a clue: It is a part of Scandinavia and the country is so clean that it once even ran out of trash.  Read More…

MOOCs ? Which one do you choose ?

Since the beginning of the MOOC disruption phase back in 2012, many startups have emerged. The “big three” MOOCs Coursera, EDx & Udacity accounted for a total market share of 24 million students worldwide. Massive online open courses (MOOC) are threatening the educational industry since 2012. Coursera, the biggest fish in the MOOC industry revealed it hit 15 million student mark in August 2015. The same month EDx, a non-profit joint venture of the prestigious universities Harvard & MIT declared that they reached a total user base of 5 million students worldwide. Sebastian Thrun the CEO of Udacity stated that their platform reached a user base of 4 million active students.


Universities outside the US have adopted a reluctant stance on the adaptation of this new business model. However, universities across Europe may face fierce competition in the near future. As for example the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will start a pilot next academic year to determine if face-to-face contact can be delivered through their MOOC platform. The 10-month program will be split up in two parts. The first five months (also referred to as the “try before you buy period”) the students can complete their courses on the platform which decreases the cost of tuition dramatically.


Which MOOCs fits your needs?

MOOCs have become a leading resource for students interested in IT and computer science students across the globe. However, the real deal is which MOOC will land you a tech job?

For computer & information science specific courses Udacity will probably be your best bet.  The programs offered at Udacity are designed together with industry giants in the tech landscape as Google, AT&T, Facebook, Salesforce & Cloudera.  With topnotch educators as Sebastian Thrun (inventor autonomous car, project leader Google Glass & co-founder Udacity ),  Steve Blank (Father of the lean start-up methodology, author & entrepreneur) Udacity is unparalleled in the educational computer science industry.


The nanodegree program offered by Udacity has been seen as the main disruptive characteristics of MOOC and is even considered as the biggest treat for traditional education in the online educational landscape. The crux of this nanodegree can be found in the unbundling of traditional curricula into so called ‘’nanodegrees’’. The nanodegrees range from intro to programming to full stack developer certifications.


EDx offers a wider variety of courses when compared to Udacity which has a computer science centric focus. EDx is a better fit for students that are interested in a specific course rather than a specific field of knowledge. In short, EDx offers several categories of courses from outstanding universities as Harvard and MIT. Despite the offering of a wide variety of courses as mandarin for beginners and the introduction to deep science course, EDx loses points on the ability to increase the quality of the user environment.


Coursera succeeded to be a distinctive player in the field. It manages to combine the benefits of both worlds by offering a wide variety of course while maintaining quality.


In short, Udacity may the best solution for oriented students that want to dive deeper and become experts in a certain field. Coursera & EDx are good options if you are interested in a wider range of courses without a specific need to dive deeper in a certain field of knowledge.






The Internet of Things: The Smart Bicycle Lock!

The internet of things is becoming a reality more and more. Beside smart thermostats, light switches and power outlets controllable by smartphone apps creating smart homes, outside of the house technology has solutions for daily encountered problems as well!


As many Dutchmen know, having a lock on your bike is not a guarantee that it won’t get stolen. The Noke U-lock might be the answer. The creators at Füz Designs have created a smart lock that is not only innovative but also very sturdy. The lock can be locked and unlocked using your phone, as the app in the phone has a unique code with which the lock corresponds through bluetooth when you press a button on the lock.


If someone is messing with the lock or the bike for more than 3 seconds, the lock can sense this and will give a loud 30 second alarm that can be heard up to 50 meters from the lock, generating enough attention to make the thieves go running. The owner will also be alerted through his phone that the alarm went off, so if someone is trying to steal your bike in the middle of the night the owner will be woken up and not come outside the next morning when it’s already too late. It also features a GPS built into the device so in case the bike gets taken together with the lock one can easily track it down. The lifelong battery of the lock will last for a whole year before it needs recharging.


For the people who always forget where they’ve parked their bike, the smartlock app will tell the user where the lock was last used. If a friend wants to use the bike the app has a special lend-out feature. In the case your phone’s battery is empty or you want to leave your phone at home, the lock has a smart feature that allows the user to unlock the lock using a unique rhythm of long and short taps, kind of like a Morse code.

smartlock 2

As innovative IT technology is being implemented in increasingly more objects, we have to get used to the fact that everything in the world around us will record, send signals and is connected. After our cars started to get a lot smarter, and homes are turning into smart homes, now its turn for our bikes to get connected.


Trident, the underwater drone you can control through your phone

The first thing you think about when you hear the word drone is probably ‘unmanned flying machine’. In the recent years, a lot of different types of drones have been invented, some even controllable by phone. But now there is a new kind of drone to be controlled through your phone: the underwater drone! A mix between an unmanned mini-submarine and a phone controllable drone, this new cool vehicle has allowed other dimensions than the sky to be explored through your phone’s touchscreen!

The Trident underwater drone allows you to control the drone and live-stream the images it makes with your smartphone, tablet or laptop. It is one of the first drones that works well under water and that allows for live streaming of the footage. The images captured by the Trident are sent to your phone or tablet through a long cable that is attached to the machine.

trident in water

Smart Design
The smart and sleek design allows the trident to be agile and fast in the water, easy to control and move around obstacles and in small spaces. With a top speed of 7 km per hour, the drone can reach a depth of more than 100 meters, and the battery will allow for three hours of underwater exploration. The trident has been designed such that it has maximum performance and controllability. This is done through the design of the exterior shape as well as the design of the thruster. This allows the Trident to be navigated through the water swiftly and agile. With this device, anyone can become a shipwreck explorer!

“Suddenly, you don’t need to be a James Cameron or a Jacques Cousteau to explore beneath the waves.” – Zachary Slobig, takepart


Kickstarter Project
The people behind the Trident are not new to underwater exploration, previously they have funded an underwater robot successfully through Kickstarter. Now they are back on the crowdfunding platform, exceeding the $ 50.000 amply, having already raised $ 657,138 funded by 1036 backers at this moment. Four years of designing and testing have gone into the project, and now with the funding goals amply reached it is almost assured the project will lead to some success. Being very easy to use, and most of all fun to control through the oceans and waters, the developers at OpenROV hope this to be their dream product.

Garage Start-up
As their dream is to build an underwater vehicle that was inexpensive and fun to use, OpenROV have made a huge jump from the simple but successful underwater robot they launched three years ago. Starting in one of the founders’ garage with the hopes of finding something special at an underwater location rumoured to contain a lost treasure in Californian waters, they started building a prototype that could be their ticket to finding gold. Although they did not find the treasure, their project is turning into gold as the enthusiastic backers lined up to fund their project and turn it into reality.

trident 5Trident+Bubble+Gif

Open Source Software
In order to make the drone very easy to use, the team has “embraced the latest emerging internet standards from HTML5 and webRTC to WebVR and WebGL to deliver a rich piloting experience through just a browser that runs on laptops, tablets, and modern mobile devices”. Using the same open-source software for the project they used for the previous underwater vehivle, the team has done a lot of updates to make it a lot better.

The cheapest version, costing $799, will include the actual underwater vehicle and its batteries, the wire that sends the footage up, and a buoy that can float on the surface and send a wifi-signal back to the phone or tablet in order to stream the live footage and control the underwater drone!


Marriage between rivals: Meituan & Dianping merged

First Uber competitors Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache came together, and now two biggest online-to-offline (O2O) service providers merged to create a $ 15 billion provider of local services. Meituan, a Groupon-like website part-owned by e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba, and Tencent-backed Dianping, a restaurant review smartphone app, would be combined to be the largest local services platform in China. The two companies would retain their brands and management structure and operate their businesses independently, but they would work together to boost each other’s business and share.

Like Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache, Meituan and Dianping were burning cash to offer price cuts, favorable retail rates and anything to attract both consumers buying and merchants selling. The combination would save the two from an expensive cash war and allow them to more easily outrun competitors, such as $3 billion startup and Baidu, which plans to invest $3.2 billion over next three years into its own local services venture Nuomi.

Indeed, the cash war has been prevailing recently in Chinese O2O market and companies are often hoping the discounted/subsidized orders would bring more and hopefully loyal customers. However, the common situation is people just use the platform with discount and easily switch to any other ones offering better deals. Companies, on the other hand, may be aware of the situation, but they would rather lose money to gain more orders. The logic behind is simple – they need a good-looking number of orders to attract next round of funding. Therefore, this war is not going anywhere but losses for everyone; even consumers would only get monetary benefit in the short term instead of better product or service in the future. As a result, investors are now desperate about increasing valuation, frequent funding and little likelihood of IPO and thus eager to end the cash-burning war. Capital winter is coming. The only way to be the winner in the O2O market is not by burning cash but building industry barrier. As users are easily switching due to the subsidies, merchants are probably the key. Since investors are getting more concerned about the intense and often unprofitable competition between leading companies in China’s Internet sector, it is speculated that more mergers like Meituan and Dianping might follow.


New tech rivalry at hand?

Grab your popcorn and take a seat. We might have another Silicon Valley tech feud on our hands. This time it’s Tesla vs. Apple. There have been rumors circulating for a long time that Apple is working on a self-driving car. After reports that Apple was poaching key automotive talents from Tesla, Musk told the German business newspaper Handelsblatt: “If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple.” The Tesla CEO went on to say “They have hired people we’ve fired. ”We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla graveyard.”’ When asked whether or not he took Apple seriously as a competitor in the automotive market, Musk replied, laughing: “Did you ever take a look at the Apple Watch?” He then chuckled.


This is a classic Goliath vs. David scenario. Some believe Musk is simply jealous, since the Apple Watch made more profit in three months than Tesla will in 2015. Musk has already taken a step back, as he tweeted that he doesn’t hate Apple and that he thinks it’s a great company with a lot of talented people. He’s still not convinced about the Apple Watch, as he said ”the functionality isn’t compelling yet, by version 3, it will be.” The Apple watch will bring in $4.4 billion in revenue this year. This is not a grand number, since Apple will be good for $233 billion in revenue in total this year. However comparing it to Tesla, who’s expected to achieve around $5.4 billion in revenue, it is pretty big. Especially when looking at the profit margins on the Apple watch.

muskBoth companies have a stellar reputations in the tech space. Yet, I do get the feeling that Musk is taking Apple lightly. He said: ”Cars are very complex compared to phones or smartwatches.” ”You can’t just go to a supplier like Foxconn and say: Build me a car.” Although he has a point, one should never count Apple out. Over the past decade or so, Apple has been very successful at fundamentally reshaping the personal-computing industry.

You’d think that the car industry is very different from the personal computing market (notebooks and phones), however Tesla’s processor supplier NVIDIA stated earlier that cars are basically supercomputers that require ”parallel processing, extensive software based architectures, and deep learning technology.” Then all of a sudden it makes a lot of sense that Apple wants a piece of the automotive market. Looking at Apple’s track record of building game changing computing devices, one should not underestimate them.

Apple has not yet responded to Musk’s comments. If Steve Jobs were still CEO at Apple this could have been very different, as he was never one to mince words. He used to be feared and famous for his tech-feuds. Jobs vs. Adobe Flash, Jobs vs. RIM, Jobs vs. John Sculley, Steve Jobs vs. IBM and of course Jobs vs. Microsoft/Bill Gates, to name a few. Apple does not shy away from taking off its gloves, as can be seen during the more recent feud between Apple and Samsung, filled with all kinds of legal assault.Gates

But let’s not get too carried away. After all, Musk has already apologised in his own way and Apple is still far away from becoming a direct competitor of Tesla. Even if they do clash, the car market is not a clear winner takes all market, so there should be room for Apple and Tesla to coexist. Right now, Tesla has other things to worry about, as its stock has dropped 11.3% in the last three months.

If you liked this blogpost and want to read more about tech feuds, check out this link: The 10 Best Tech Rivalries of All Time.


F*cked by the Cloud

On the 12th of October, Dell Inc. announced that it acquired network storage giant EMC Corp. for approximately $67 billion, making it the largest tech merger of all time (and the second-largest overall). That same morning, before the merger was actually made official, I came across an interesting article on this topic called: “Dell. EMC. HP. Cisco. These tech giants are the walking dead” (the first episode of the 6th season of AMC’s television show The Walking Dead premiered the same day).

In this article, it is argued that the aforementioned tech giants are, in fact, dead. And here’s why. For decades, these large companies ruled the market of enterprise computing. When one needed to store lots of data, EMC was your main option. It offered the machines and complementing software to the company, in return for a considerable amount of money. However, as EMC was the only distributor of the software, when the amount of storage needed to be expanded, more money was paid to EMC. The same goes for the other companies. In need the need of servers? Dell, HP and IBM were the ones to go to. Networking gear? Bought form Cisco. The provider of database software? Supplied by Oracle.

In the current environment, however, this is all changing. New players have arisen in the market. Players like Amazon, Google and Facebook, who have changed the existing establishment. The biggest change: the Cloud. These internet businesses became so large, that eventually they realized they could not sustain with hardware and software of the established vendors. The sheer quantity made it too expensive and
they were unable to scale on the assets. Therefore, they simply designed their own hardware and software. This made it less expensive and faster. But most importantly, they did not keep the technology to themselves. They have published it to the world, as open source designs, while at the same time offering their own infrastructure to third parties.
This has caused new vendors to emerge, selling the hardware and software solutions the internet giants came up with. Additionally, more and more companies store their data in the cloud – on the infrastructure of the same tech giants.

Then, why don’t the Dells and IBMs of this world do the same and offer cloud storage? They have in fact, but they can’t stretch it too far. Otherwise, they will cannibalize their existing business. Due to this innovator’s dilemma, these companies are – as the author of the previously mentioned article states – “fucked by the cloud”. By using Amazon’s cloud to store data and run software, you simply don’t need the hardware and software from Dell and HP anymore.

So, what should be the right strategy for these companies in trouble? Dell and EMC have chosen to merge, but analysts do not expect this merger to radically reshape the technology market. It might strengthen their position against direct competitors like HP and IBM, but due to the increasing pressure of cloud-storage, it just seems like a bigger fish in an ever shrinking pond.

Bas van Baar (358545sb)

Security as a unique selling point

While Apple and Samsung are competing fiercely at the higher end of the smartphone market, a new niche market is emerging in the industry. Instead of ever improving the specifications of their flagship smartphones, these new devices do not even come close to their hardware level. Yet, they are offered in the same price range. If it are not the specs, then what else is it that adds so much value to these phones?

Truth is, it is the security they offer. A few days ago, Archos – a French manufacturer that has not produced anything of note in recent times – introduced the GranitePhone. This smartphone was developed in a partnership with SIKUR, a Brazilian vendor of encrypted company-focused communications apps (Androidpolice, 2015). The phone is the latest to enter the emerging global market of ultra-secure smartphones, in which manufacturers  are anticipating growing concerns regarding the protection of data. That the software is coming from a Brazilian company might not come as a surprise. In 2013, the president of the country, Dilma Rousseff, cancelled a state visit to the United States, after Edward Snowden released documents which indicated her email and phone calls were monitored by the U.S (Bloomberg, 2015). The Granitephone is not the first of this type. Precedents include the Blackphone, produced by Silent Circle, and the Boeing Black smartphone. Interestingly, none come from established smartphone manufacturers and offer these companies an entry position in the entire smartphone market.

In this market, which surpassed 1 billion yearly smartphone sales in 2014 (Gartner, 2015), the advantages are well known. The devices have become an extension of daily life and are often trusted with our most intimate data. In addition, they generate enormous amounts of new data about the users. This is also where concerns are being raised, as the data appears to be less private and secure than is often realized by the user. (Jeon, et al., 2011) identify eight threats apparent to smartphones, of which four are caused by external attackers and the other four by the unawareness of the user:

  1. Malware. Malware can alter or expose private information and abuse costly services and functions.
  2. Wireless network attacks. An attacker can corrupt, modify, or block information on the wireless network.
  3. Denial of service. The risk of availability due to attacks on base stations and networks, or using radio interference.
  4. Break-in. An attacker gaining partial or full control of the device.
  5. Malfunction. The user can mistakenly disable their device.
  6. Phishing. Exposing private information due to phishing activities.
  7. Loss. The user can lose his/her smartphone.
  8. Platform alteration. Intentional alteration of the smartphone (e.g. jailbreaking).

The GranitePhone offers a solution focusing on the first four threats. It encrypts all outgoing messages and calls by storing them on SIKUR’s cloud based platform, which is only accessible through various layers of authentication (Tech Times, 2015). The Boeing Black smartphone even tackles one of the user-related threats, as it self-destructs in case of loss or theft. As the example of the Brazilian president above indicates, it are not only consumers which should be concerned about their mobile privacy. For corporations, politicians and defense the benefits of a secure phone might be even greater, as they possess more sensitive information.

So, are there no limitations of the Granitephone? Sure there are. As mentioned before, the hardware specifications of the phone are nothing special. The functionality is also limited. Currently, there is no internet browser available. In addition, it seems unlikely that productive applications like Gmail will be available on the device. It is even unclear if third party software can be installed at all. Then there is the price. It currently costs $849, around the price one can buy the newest iPhone for. In addition, there is debate about the actual security of the platform and the transparency around it.

Hence, it is unlikely that the phone will appeal to the mass consumer market. However, for certain corporate and political positions it might be the solution to safeguarding their most valuable information. Maybe more importantly, it adds to the existing debate on the security and privacy of mobile data, which governments and other companies seem take into account less and less.

  • Bas van Baar (358545sb)

Androidpolice, 2015. Archos Enters The Niche ‘Secure Phone’ Market With The $850 GranitePhone. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 10 October 2015].

Bloomberg, 2015. Brazilians Are Developing an Untappable Phone. [Online]
Available at:

Gartner, 2015. Gartner Says Smartphone Sales Surpassed One Billion Units in 2014. [Online]
Available at:

Jeon, W., Kim, J., Lee, Y. & Won, D., 2011. A Practical Analysis of Smartphone Security. Human Interface and the Management of Information, pp. 311-320.

Tech Times, 2015. Techtimes. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 12 October 2015].

The Future of the Internet Is Flow

About a week ago, I came across this very interesting article in The Wall Street Journal about the Internet, and where the Web is going. The authors stated that The Web was a brilliant first shot at making the Internet usable, but it backed the wrong horse. It chose space over time. The conventional website is “space-organized,” like a patterned beach towel—pineapples upper left, mermaids lower right. Websites are divided the same among the web (hence it’s a web). Instead it might have been “time-organized,” like a parade—first this band, three minutes later this float, 40 seconds later that band, like a river flowing by.

So let’s skip the theory and see how this goes into practice. The authors argue that your future home page—the screen you go to first on your phone, laptop or TV— will be a bouquet of your favorite streams from all over. News streams are blended with shopping streams, blogs, your friends’ streams, each running at its own speed. This home stream includes your personal stream as part of the blend—emails, documents and so on. Your home stream is just one tiny part of the world stream. You can see your home stream in 3-D on your laptop or desktop, in constant motion on your phone or as a crawl on your big TV.

By watching one stream, you watch the whole world—all the public and private events you care about. To keep from being overwhelmed, you adjust each stream’s flow rate when you add it to your collection. The system slows a stream down by replacing many entries with one that lists short summaries—10, 100 or more.

An all-inclusive home stream creates new possibilities. You could build a smartwatch to display the stream as it flows past. It could tap you on the wrist when there’s something really important on-stream. You can set something aside or rewind if necessary. Just speak up to respond to messages or add comments. True in-car computing becomes easy. Because your home stream gathers everything into one line, your car can read it to you as you drive.

Does this sound familiar? Well it should a bit. The current Facebook wall/timeline, or Twitter is a great example of this theory put into practice. So let’s imagine this but fully integrated into our lives. No more checking e-mails, its right in that stream, no more browsing for news, but the news is delivered right to you. What are the implications for current information strategies?

My idea of this:
I think the near future will hold platforms such as Facebook or Google+ for the “stream”. People already more and more only use these pages to access the articles and updates they want. Fancy Follow it on Facebook and you’ll receive updates sending you to their website. Those are the suppliers: Websites for news, shopping and much more. The University MyEUR integrated into your stream, no need to get into the hassle of logging in on MyEUR but they will just post important things on your stream.

So there we are, with a platform, suppliers and users. What if we stop forwarding from Facebook to a certain website but display that News-item right onto your stream? Who makes the revenue? Probably, Facebook will provide the needed adverts onto the stream, giving a share of the profit to the suppliers of the stream. Another possibility is the Freemium model, want to pay for the stream? Pay 10 euros a month and no advertising. Just like Spotify, a similar pay-per-stream model might be suitable. With smart-watches and phones the need for more efficient display of information increases.

Do you guys have any thoughts on this? Where are we heading?

Author: Hidde van Heijst
#: 436800

“The Future of the Internet Is Flow”, the Wall Street Journal, 2nd of October 2015. David Galernter & Eric Freeman.

Why is Pepsi building a phone?

Quick, name the first smartphone brands that come to mind.

Most people would mention Apple, Samsung, HTC, LG or Sony. If you’re more familiar with the industry, you might add Lenovo, Xiaomi, and/or Huawei to the above list. You’re very unlikely to mention Pepsi, however.

Yet a recent leak indicates that the beverage manufacturer will indeed release an Android phone. According to, seemingly the source of those leaks, the phone is to be called the Pepsi P1. The device will feature a 5,5-inch screen with 1080p resolution, a 1,7GHz processor and 2GB of RAM. The rest of the technical specifications include: 16GB of storage, 3000mAh of battery capacity, and a 13 megapixel main camera along with a 5 megapixel front-facing one. The phone is expected to retail for CNY 1.299 – approximately € 180. Pepsi will reportedly announce the device on October 20th, and it appears to be a China exclusive.

Pepsi is not the first unexpected company to get involved in selling smartphones: Facebook attempted it in 2013 with the HTC First, and Kodak has released the IM5 this summer. The former was a dramatic flop with only 15.000 units sold across the US. There are no sales results available for the latter but it’s not likely to have done well, with only 4 stores in the Netherlands still stocking it.

But at least Facebook and Kodak had somewhat sensible reasons to try their hand at smartphones. For Facebook, the phone was intended to promote their ill-fated Android homescreen replacement. Kodak counted on their brand recognition amongst the older crowd, targeting consumers that are shopping for their first smartphone.

Pepsi’s core business however, has nothing to do with consumer technology. It’s entirely unclear why they would enter the highly competitive Chinese smartphone market, what value they could add, or who their target customers would be. A spokesman told the Daily Mail that “Pepsi has always moved at the speed of culture, and today technology is a key cultural pillar at the heart of consumer interaction”, which doesn’t seem to actually mean anything. Do you know of a better reason for Pepsi to release a phone? Feel free to let us know in the comments.

Hackers steal your data during your morning commute.

Image ©

I am not the kind of person that tries to hide every trace off the internet. I am not the kind of person that refuses to use cloud based services. But I am the kind of person that browses responsibly. In order to guarantee my data is safe from people snooping around I occasionally use a VPN, and I think you should too. In my recent post[1] I’ve touched upon a difficult dilemma in current society, privacy versus security. In this post I will further elaborate on the privacy aspect of online browsing, in particular when you are on an untrusted connection.


With all the talk on online security, it is surprising to see how a lot of situations with security flaws are used without hesitation. I hear a lot of complaints of individuals who worry about remarketing, done by innocent cookies. But have you ever used Wi-Fi on a train? 2 years ago Roy Verploegen posted a blog on the recent introduction of Wi-Fi in the NS trains, describing the poor quality of service. But the quality of the connection is not even the worst part. Free public WiFi connections are increasingly proven to be a privacy hazard. Hackers are able to gain access to your browsing metadata, and hijack your surfing pages[7].

Using ‘sniffer software’ hackers can ‘sniff’ through the traffic traveling to and from a wireless router to a device. This metadata can reveal identity info, including the device info of the user and server the device is communicating with. Even more vulnerable are ‘rogue Wi-Fi’ hotspots, which hackers set up at a public location[8]. These hotspots are given generic names like ‘Free Wi-Fi’ or ‘Starbucks’, often saved in the devices of the users. These hotspots redirect the internet of the users and enables them to view and alter any unencrypted data sent and received by the user. Using ‘DNS spoofing’[9] hackers can let you believe you are accessing your bank, while in reality you are giving all your info to the hacker.

Image © Norton


VPN is a Virtual Private Network, which enables you to virtually join a local network (LAN) where you are not physically present[2]. A VPN connection can be set up on your device and as you connect with the internet, you do so through a so called ‘tunnel’ to the LAN. VPN connections are often used by companies and universities to enable users to act as if they are on the private network. This is important to ensure sensitive data does not leave the company network or to enable users to access local files and applications. VPN connections are also used for watching country restricted content[3] and hiding illegal downloads[4].

A VPN connection secures your internet connection to guarantee your data is safe. It does so by encrypting the data you are sending through the ‘tunnel’ to the network you’re virtually connected to. It establishes a connection between the server and your own device by exchanging trusted keys after logging in with your credentials. This allows you to browse completely anonymous on any internet connection, if you thrust the server.

Unlike Tor[5], your connection is encrypted to the server (exit node). Both the server and your device have the key to unencrypt your data. This allows system administrators to access your data, while externally it is completely secured. In Tor, only your device has the encryption keys. In addition, your data passes at least three servers, all with new encryption keys, until it reaches the exit node (server that sends/receives data with the internet)[6].


Next time, worry less about re-marketing and worry more about your (internet)connection. As a lot of readers of this blog are students, make use of the university VPN when you treat yourself to a latte macchiato. Or, if you want to go a little more professional check out this list of the best VPN providers.











Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp: The true reason for this deal – Synergy

Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp is one of the biggest acquisitions in the tech industry. The numbers don’t lie; the price was $4 billion in cash, $12 billion in stock (8.5% of Facebook’s stock) plus $3 billion in restricted shares. This adds up to a staggering $19 billion dollars.

The numbers don’t add up though. WhatsApp was founded in 2009 and already it acquired 450 million users, which is three times more than Facebook had acquired in the same period of time. Now these numbers are impressive, you might think. Note that Facebook paid $19 billion for 450 million users, which is $42.22 dollar per user. That seems quite expensive. The cash flow isn’t too impressive either. This 450 million user and $19 billion company has a revenue of no more than $20 million dollar.

WhatsApp’s co-founder and CEO Jan Koum had been pounded often by investors who wanted a piece of his company. He turned them all down, as he knew that WhatsApp was worth more. And besides, why would a CEO ever leave a company when it is still growing at this pace?
The truth is that no company before had ever bid the amount that Facebook offered. We just did the math, it seems highly overpriced. So what is the reason for Facebook to pay this amount?


It won’t be monetising the app further than the yearly dollar subscription fee. Many of WhatsApp’s competitors have monetised their apps through stickers, sponsor channels, ads and in-game purchases. This doesn’t stroke with the believes of Facebook however, who have always wanted a clean appearance for their users. Indeed, Mark Zuckerberg himself told the WhatsApp ‘zero pressure’ to make money. All Mark Zuckerberg was interested in, as history made clear, was user numbers.

User volume

The user volume of WhatsApp is growing faster than Facebook. Also, the engagement number of WhatsApp is the only app which beats Facebook, claimed Mark Zuckerberg.

Fill global gaps

If you consider that Facebook’s growth is holding back, because it is hard for them to enter Asia and Latin America it all starts to make sense. While not in China and Japan, WhatsApp is the clear leader across most of Asia and Latin America. So Facebook was struggling with the shut door they found in these countries. WhatsApp could be the back entrance they need. How will Facebook profit from WhatsApp’s presence through?


Click for enlarged view

Facebook is already trying options to merge WhatsApp in their services and vice versa. Even though Facebook already has Messenger, a merging with WhatsApp seems very logical. Messenger is actually quite a big texting app by itself, even leader in the US and France. This could mean that if they can merge these two massive networks, the impact on network effects would be huge.

User Tracking

Ever noted that Facebook wants your number for security reasons? Guess what other phone number they already have of you in which app? That’s right. Could these be linked together? They sure can.

Every time you are sending messages through WhatsApp, Facebook identifies valuable relationships of you with these persons. This is all input for your Facebook news feed.

So others don’t buy it

Other tech giants such as Microsoft and Apple were luring on WhatsApp too. Facebook saw their growth numbers decline and realised they could make better use of the app than most of these others. Besides, Facebook probably would rather not compete with companies of that size, which have proven to be aggressive players in their own rights.

Conclusion – Synergy

There is no one real reason why WhatsApp was worth this amount of money. There are actually many. All we know is that for Facebook to buy WhatsApp makes more sense than other potential deals. There is actually a natural synergy, as it seems that WhatsApp is able to fill some of the gaps Facebook couldn’t fill themselves. Truth be told, I don’t think that Facebook knows all the potential benefits. Only the future will tell if these companies merge together well and if WhatsApp was worth all this money.

Clark, J & Sataranio, A. (2015) Apple Acquires Startup Developing Advanced AI for Phones,, October 8, 2015.

Olson, P. (2014) Inside The Facebook-WhatsApp Megadeal: The Courtship, The Secret Meetings, The $19 Billion Poker Game Forbes, March 24, 2014

Kelly, G. (2014) 5 Key Reasons WhatsApp Is Worth $19 Billion — To Facebook, Feb 20, 2014

Berman, D. K. (2014) I Thought Facebook’s WhatsApp Deal Was Crazy. Then I Did Some Math. Wall Street Journal, February 24, 2014

Watts-Jones, M. (2013) 10 ways that messaging apps monetize – a guide to monetization Linkedin, September 13, 2013

Triggs, R. (2015) Facebook begins testing WhatsApp integration Android Authority, April 6, 2015


6 Sources to be Informed About the World

I am an information geek and I’m here to share the best of it. 

In this Internet age, it is extremely difficult to find the useful information which is of high quality and caters to your preferences. That is why I wanted to share with you the best information sources around. I believe in Dave Pell’s idea, that the best algorithm is human. Therefore, most of these sources are newsletters or individuals, who are passionate about knowledge.

The Next Draft
 Everything you need to know on the internet

The Managing Editor of the Internet Dave Pell daily sends a digest with 10 days most fascinating news. If I would need to choose only one source that I could read, this would be the one! All media people read it. Just name it: The Atlantic, The Economist, The New Yorker
And you should too!


Mattermark Daily
 All you need to know about start-ups

Mattermark has the most successful content marketing I’ve ever seen. I actually only started because my work in a start-up required to do so. If you ever think about being knowledgable about start-ups, then this is a go-to place.

Explain the News

The best news site that I have ever encountered. They write about all the important affairs. And explain them. Only caveat is the fact that they are US news portal and as well coverage is focused more on their issues.
Still marvelous journalism.


Farnam Street Blog
 Learn to think

I obsolutely love that this guy is trying to talk about literally everything on how we can improve our thinking. He has mapped more than 100 mental models, starting from creative thinking and ending with Biases.
Just check it out, if you want to become smarter.
 Random highbrow cool stuff

I guess that this is already slightly specific to ones taste in the entertainment. Basically, this guy posts everything starting from slideshow on how mobile internet is changing developing countries, and ending with cool movie trailers.
Uhh… Just check it out. Love it or.. ignore it.


Andrew Chen
Understand what is happening in the Silicon Valley

Great essays on Tech-related start-up industry. He has written 650+ essays for The New York Times, WSJ, Wired, Fortune etc. The best guy to have the real insights from.

Here are some more nice channels definitely worth checking out:

Evergreen – gives really in-depth information regarding the business related topics. I wanted to put it in TOP 5, but forgot.

Quartz – more finance related Europe centered, high quality news source

Barking up the Wrong tree – self-development advises backed up in science from a guy, who writes to the Economist

Buffer – everything about social media strategy you need to know

Direkt Fast News – all crucial news explained in three sentences

Delve – receive movie of the week, nicely presented – nice source for Latvian speaking audience

Delve – my own information dissemination platform. Exactly my work on sourcing high quality news for it, has resulted in me knowing so many great sources that can be useful for life. [Yes, it is in Latvian, however, almost all the articles are in English] 

Still. Don’t trust media, and don’t be ignorant about the world. [MARVELOUS VIDEO]

P.s. I consciously tried to escape from more obvious sources like The Economist, Financial Times, The Atlantic etc. I still believe in them being high quality news sources.  

 Written by: Gustavs Upmanis

<p style=”color: #000000;”><a href=””>Evergreen</a&gt; – gives really indepth information regarding the business related topics. I wanted to put it in TOP 5, but forgot.</p>
<p style=”color: #000000;”><span style=”line-height: 1.2;”><a href=”/admin/modules/categories/”>Quartz</a> – more finance related Europe centred, high quality news source</span></p>
<p style=”color: #000000;”><span style=”line-height: 1.2;”><a href=””>Barking up the Wrong tree </a>- self-development advices backed up in science from a guy, who writes to the Economist</span></p>
<p style=”color: #000000;”><span style=”line-height: 1.2;”><a href=””>Buffer</a&gt; – everything about social media strategy you need to know</span></p>
<p style=”color: #000000;”><span style=”line-height: 1.2;”><a href=””>Direkt Fast News </a>- all crucial news explained in three sentences</span></p>
<p style=”color: #000000;”><span style=”line-height: 1.2;”><a href=””>Delve -</a> receive movie of the week, nicely presented</span></p>
<p style=”color: #000000;”><span style=”line-height: 1.2;”><a href=””> </a>- nice source for Latvian speaking audience</span></p>
<p style=”color: #000000;”><span style=”line-height: 1.2;”><a href=””>Delve -</a> my own information dissamination platform. Exactly my work on sourcing high quality news for it, has resulted in me knowing so many great sources that can be useful for life. [Yes, it is in Latvian, however, almost all the articles are in English] </span></p>
<p style=”color: #000000;”>Stil. Don’t trust media, and <a href=””>don’t be ignorant about the world.</a> [MARVELOUS VIDEO]</p>
<p style=”color: #000000;”><span style=”font-size: medium;”>P.s. If you are an information geek the same as I am, then bookmark this article and enjoy without hurry. And share.
P.s.s. I consciously tried to escape from more obvious sources like The Economist, Financial Times, The Atlantic etc. I still believe in them being high quality news sources.  </span></p>

Evergreen – gives really indepth information regarding the business related topics. I wanted to put it in TOP 5, but forgot.

Quartz – more finance related Europe centred, high quality news source

Barking up the Wrong tree – self-development advices backed up in science from a guy, who writes to the Economist

Buffer – everything about social media strategy you need to know

Direkt Fast News – all crucial news explained in three sentences

Delve – receive movie of the week, nicely presented – nice source for Latvian speaking audience

Delve – my own information dissamination platform. Exactly my work on sourcing high quality news for it, has resulted in me knowing so many great sources that can be useful for life. [Yes, it is in Latvian, however, almost all the articles are in English] 

Stil. Don’t trust media, and don’t be ignorant about the world. [MARVELOUS VIDEO]

P.s. If you are an information geek the same as I am, then bookmark this article and enjoy without hurry. And share. P.s.s. I consciously tried to escape from more obvious sources like The Economist, Financial Times, The Atlantic etc. I still believe in them being high quality news sources.  

Buying a new laptop? Wait a few more days!

The new era for laptops would start in the Fall of 2015. At least, that is what I was hoping when I postponed the purchase of my next laptop. Why did I have such high expectations you may think? It’s because both Windows 10 and Skylake will be released. Skylake is not a new James Bond movie, it’s Intel’s 6th generation Core processor microarchitecture. In my head this would be the perfect timing for all the big companies to introduce their new models.

It seems like it was worth the wait, as the fireworks have already started. Microsoft revealed their first laptop, the Surface Book ( during their event on October 6, as well as the Surface Pro 4, the successor of the very successful Surface Pro 3.

So why wait a few more days? Because many laptop companies will launch their new Windows 10-based devices in the upcoming weeks. After all, you don’t want to buy a new laptop and then see it become outdated in a matter of weeks. Microsoft offered a schedule for when and where these third-party announcements will take place:

  • October 7, we’ll take the stage with HP in Barcelona
  • October 8, we’ll be in New York City with Dell
  • October 9, we’ll be in San Francisco, with ASUS
  • October 12, we’ll be in Taipei with Acer
  • October 13, we’ll be in Tokyo with Toshiba
  • October 19 we’ll be back in San Francisco with Lenovo

skylake-vs-broadwell_thumb800One could argue that for those with high expectations, the desktop version of the Skylake processor series was a slight dissapointment. It offered only a five to ten percent performance increase over it’s predecessor, the Haswell CPU. However, the area in which the new Skylake structure shines is far more interesting for laptop users: power consumption and efficiency. With a Skylake processor your laptop will last longer. Also, the chips are smaller and the internal graphics card is improved.


In case I’ve just convinced you of the advantages of Skylake, let’s take a look at the new laptop models announced and quickly discuss their unique selling points. The first one on the list is HP. HP has just announced 2 new models. The Spectre x2 and the Envy laptop. The Spectre x2 is a tablet in combination with a keyboard. It is very similar to Microsoft’s Surface Pro. In short, it is a convertible with a 12’’ screen and a 1920×1280 pixels resolution. It is very light with 0,84 kilo without- and 1.24 kilos with keyboard and will contain an Intel core M Skylake processor. The Envy laptop is a 13’’ laptop, which is claimed to be the slimmest laptop the company has ever built. HP will also revamp its popular Spectre x360 with new Skylake processors.

Dell is not lacking behind. The company has just updated its full XPS line. The XPS 15 now comes with Dell’s patented Infinity edge screen. This means that while the screen is 15,6’’, the laptop will only be 14’’, due to the small bezels. This laptop however is not available for those on a student budget, as it starts at €1479 (including taxes). The very popular XPS13 now comes with a Skylake processor and different RAM and memory possibilities. Last but not least, Dell introduced a 12’’ XPS convertible. You can even configure this model with a 4k touchscreen. Personally I do not see the benefit in that, as many applications do not support 4k yet and one wil therefore experience scaling issues too often. Besides, it is debatable whether a 12’’ screen is big enough to warrant a 4k resolution.


I plan to update this blog when Acer, Asus, Toshiba and Lenovo announce their new models. For now, I’m also quite intrigued by the recently announced Microsoft Surface Book, however that one will not be released in Europa for the next 6 months, For the Apple users out there, I’m afraid you’re also going to have to wait a bit longer to enjoy Skylake. Apple has updated it’s Macbooks not too long ago.

I don’t think it’s worth it to upgrade to a Skylake model if you have a fairly recent laptop, just for the sake of Skylake. Do you plan to upgrade? And if so, share your train of thoughts here!


Crijns, K. (2015). Intel Skylake architectuur review: Intels 6de generatie Core CPU’s | Hardware.Info Nederland. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2015].

Tweakers, (2015). Dell geeft XPS 15-laptop een update met dunne schermranden en uhd-resolutie. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2015].

Tweakers, (2015). HP brengt Spectre x2-convertible en 12,9mm dunne Envy-laptop uit. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2015].

Ung, G. and Ung, G. (2015). Intel Skylake CPU details revealed: These faster, more power-efficient chips can even drive three 4K monitors. [online] PCWorld. Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2015

What is the future for Windows Phone?


It was in 2010, when Microsoft brought a new innovation to the Mobile OS market, with its Windows phone 7. Although it did not turn out to be a game changer in the market, it had really brought in some interesting innovations for a mobile phone OS. ‘Live tile’ was the most important of them. It allowed users to see all the information they needed from the start screen. And they were not standalone icons like in iOS, but live tiles, which kept on updating real-time. Windows phone came at a time when Nokia was seeing its initial downfall in the market and was looking for a solid OS to compete with the likes of Samsung (Android) and Apple (iOS).

With the introduction of Windows Phone 8 in late 2012, its devices started to see some significant growth in the market. Nokia introduced Windows Phone 8 in the market with its Lumia 920 and 820 range, following it up with a low-cost Lumia 520. The devices turned out to be a hit and windows phones started seeing more than 100% year-on-year growth. Unfortunately, that saw windows phone’s last smile.  Despite the growth, Nokia could not manage to financially lift itself up from the big losses it had undergone in the previous years and ultimately ended up being acquired by Microsoft in late 2013.

What seemed to be a good deal for the growth of windows phone, turned out to be more or less the beginning of downfall of the Operating System. Since then, windows phone is making news for the wrong reasons more than the right reasons. The most important of them was seen in July 2015, when Microsoft decided to write down Nokia’s acquisition deal of $7.5b, which indicated nothing but negative signals for the future of windows phones.

A recent article published by PC Mag claimed “Microsoft Doesn’t Really Want to Sell Windows Phones in the U.S“. In the US, Microsoft Lumia devices are only available with AT&T.  Does it mean that no other carrier is interested in Windows Phones? Apparently, that is not the case. Almost every carrier in the US is open to having windows phones, but Microsoft gives them the cold shoulder. Infact, the CEO of T-Mobile, John Legere, himself had tweeted saying

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 23.59.47

Is Microsoft deliberately trying to jump into the well?  It does seem so.

What is the future for windows phone? Will it continue to exist? Was Microsoft too ambitious when it had decided to become a smartphone device maker, rather than just a software maker? Would Microsoft and Nokia have remained better off without the acquisition?

These are some of questions that pop up in everyone’s mind and unfortunately, are still debatable.

Author: Gaurav Kumar


Why you will never meet Bob: The takeover of Ticketfly by Pandora

Ilistening-music_0magine sitting in a train. Take a look at the person on your left hand side. Meet Bob. You don’t know Bob, and you will never get to know Bob, as Bob is staring out of the window with his headphones on. Look straight ahead again. There is a couple sitting opposite of you, sharing a set of earphones and head-banging on music you cannot hear. At the back of the train, you suddenly see your friend Denise, and you call out her name; unfortunately, she does not seem to hear you as she is fully engaged in a new Spotify playlist she just discovered. You decide to pull out your headphones and put on the new album of Mumford & Sons.

Music is everywhere. Music has been everywhere for decades, yet recently, a new technological development disrupted the entire industry; streaming services. Companies such as Spotify, Rdio, Apple Music, Pandora and Tidal are all engaged in fierce competition to attract most paying customers. However, these companies face two problems. Firstly, although customers seem to grow very fond of music streaming services – almost 15 billion numbers were streamed in the United Kingdom in 2014 (The Guardian 2015), and United States music streaming revenues surged to over 1 billion dollars in the first half of 2015 (Statista 2015) -, these services still do not make enough revenue to become profitable. Secondly, artists do not love streaming services as much as users do. We all can recall the moment that Taylor Swift decided to withdraw her music from Spotify, and other artists as Beyonce and Ed Sheeran have also attempted to get around the influence of these streaming services. As can be derived from the ongoing discussion regarding streaming royalties, it seems that artists do not feel treated fairly by these businesses (The Economist 2015).

However, yesterday Pandora announced a takeover that might mark a change in the relationship between artists and streaming services. With its takeover of Ticketfly, an online concert ticketing service similar to Ticketmaster, Pandora will soon be able to directly sell concert tickets to music listeners. Whilst services as Pandora and Spotify were already promoting the sales of tickets through ads leading the listener to third-party websites, Pandora has now decided to move the entire purchase process to within its own ecosystem.

Pandora can use its experience in data collection to specifically target customers that might be interested in concert tickets from a certain artist. Apart from strengthening the ties between listening to music and visiting a concert hence increasing the music experience for users, Pandora also strengthens bonding with artists by this takeover. As concert tickets sales is still booming business (Techcrunch 2015) and has even become the main source of income for artists (Forbes 2015), artists will eventually be able to leverage the enormous user database of Pandora and even specifically target their ideal customer, without having to pay any additional promotion costs.

For Pandora itself, the acquisition of Ticketfly might also create more opportunities to generate revenue, and perhaps turn into a profitable business on the long-run. Pandora seems to have found a unique way to use its massive amounts of data to increase value for both parties simultaneously in its two-sided market, therefore increasing pressure on competitors such as Spotify and Apple Music.

Do you think that with this step, Pandora has revolutionised the music streaming service industry once again, ensuring that Bob can get involved even further with his favourite bands? Do other music streaming services have to follow? Or do you think there is another answer to low profits and weak bonds with artists?


The Economist 2015, The dry stream of musicians’ royalties. Viewed 9 October 2015. Accessible via <>.

Forbes 2015, Pandora’s purchase of Ticketfly finally good news for shareholders. Viewed 9 October 2015. Accessible via <>.

The Guardian 2015, Streaming: the future of the music industry, or its nightmare? Viewed 9 October 2015. Accessible via <>.

Statista 2015, Music streaming revenues surpass physical format sales. Viewed 9 October 2015. Accessible via <>.

Techcrunch 2015, Pandora Acquires Ticketfly for $450m to sell concert tickets. Viewed 9 October 2015. Accessible via <>.

Modern Wars: How Information Technology Changed Warfare

Modern Wars: How Information Technology Changed Warfare

On the 30th of September Vladimir Vladimirovitsj Putin, President of Russia, announced that Russia conducted its first air-strikes in Syria targeted at ISIS (or ISIL). However, in the days after the United States of America and other countries began to question Russia’s motive and use of old school bombing technology which might cause harm to civilians and inflame the civil war in Syria (CNN/Time, 2015). According to US official’s Russian bombing technology is a lacking behind American weaponry in terms of accuracy. As such moves increase the tensions between the East and the West and businesses use information technology to reach their goals, I started to research how information technology has changed warfare over time.

A B-2 stealth bomber refuels.

A B-2 stealth bomber refuels.

The main goals of warfare have not really changed, but the way wars evolve and are waged certainly have. Just hundred twenty years ago, armies marched to battle in their uniforms, lined up against one another, and mainly used weapons with a short effective range. Thus, people who killed one another were always in close proximity. Later on, longer-range weapons emerged, and the distance between the soldiers became larger and larger. Today, some countries have the capability to destroy towns without having to be physically at the site or even have a within a hundreds of miles. All due to the introduction of IT in modern warfare which enables people to fight wars with the touch of button. This instantaneous transfer of information through the Internet and availability of the Internet around the world increases the number of participants in war. Unarmed actors thousands of miles away can participate in a conflict even by sitting at their computer, providing funding or (video/picture) information through the Internet or deep web.

Read More…


Twitter Increase Character Limit

As you might have heard in the past few weeks Twitter is considering removing the 140-character limit. Currently, Twitter is creating a new product that will enable users to share tweets with an unlimited amount of characters. But what does this mean for the future of twitter? There are various characteristics that separate Twitter from other social networks but the 140-character limit has always been the most important trademark of Twitter. Twitter has been under scrutiny about this for years and many have argued that Twitter should expand the limit. But now that this might actually happen, will the users see blocks of text on their timelines? Or will it be a separate blog-type of service? This change will certainly have an impact on marketers who use Twitter to connect to consumers. Due to the longer content that will crop up almost immediately after the change, marketers will have to spend more time writing the body of tweet. This could create a shift on Twitter from many, small tweets throughout the day to fewer, longer tweets because marketers will not want to deplete their own time and resources and alienate consumers who may unfollow if they feel bombarded with content.

Lifting the limit might seem like a good thing, however, will Twitter be able to differentiate itself from other social networks after this implementation? This change could be detrimental to the unique community of writers and creatives who have found a home on the platform. The inconvenience of the 140-character limit has forced Twitter users and marketers to become better writers and salespeople. These parameters have taught Twitter users to develop their own unique style and flow. The only downside to the limit is that there is not much room for nuance. Twitter user must create a thread of tweets in order to show a progression of thought. However, this separation actually allows followers to process information much more seamlessly. After practicing marketers can learn to use the limit to their advantage with more precise and to the point content, as the most successful Twitter users manage to be both poignant and witty in bite-sized portions.

Not only is Twitter a platform where ideas are exchanged constantly but it is also a platform that turns minorities into targets of harassment by trolls. If Twitter is strongly considering lifting the 140-character limit ban, it must first put in place stricter anti-harassment regulations. Without the character limit trolls will be given more freedom to attack. This can cause the number of Twitter users to decline while Twitter is desperate to find new ways to attract users to the product.

Twitter wants to improve its appeal to the mainstream social media users, who do not know how to interact on a 140-character landscape. Removing the 140-character limit is a way to achieve that and will provide new readers of marketers’ content. However, the question arises whether or not this would actually increase Twitter’s audience. Twitter’s 140-character limit has force innovation in language and art, and created a platform perfectly tailored to facilitate instant interaction and community building. Instead of eliminating the characteristics that make Twitter unique among its competitors and the power these innovations have, Twitter should focus on making it secure for users and use this opportunity to improve this innovation and differentiate even more. Do not mess with what is not broken. Or do you think otherwise?


Passwords are so yesterday!

Hasn’t it happened to every single one of us? We decided to add a new password (or maybe just a new variation of an old password) to our list of two to four passwords that we use for all of our accounts – either because we feel like we have used it too many times now, or because the requirements ask for a different kind of special character combination than the two versions of the same password you already have. We thought we were so clever when we created this super-complicated and super-safe new password, and we decided not to write it down because… well, we all know we are not supposed to do that. But now we are sitting in front of our laptop staring at the screen hoping that this super-safe password will find its way back into our thoughts.

At some point not too long ago, fingerprints and other sorts of biometric data like iris scans were considered to be the ultimate safety precaution. However, in today’s interconnected world, biometric data is more and more vulnerable to getting into the wrong person’s hands. When the U.S. Office of Personnel Management was hacked in 2015, a number of 5.6 million fingerprints were stolen. Even though the ability of hackers to make use of those stolen fingerprints is still limited at the moment, this is considered to change quickly as technology evolves rapidly (TheGuardian, 2015).

So if we keep forgetting our passwords, we are not supposed to write them down, and even fingerprints and retina prints are soon not to be safe anymore – how can we protect our private property?

Do not fear, the answer is inside your head.
brain waves

Researchers from Birmingham University have developed a way for security systems to identify a person’s identity through that person’s brainwaves. A study showed that brains react to different words with different kinds of electrical potentials that represent neural communication, and that those different reactions can be used to verify a person’s identity with an accuracy of 94 percent. The study also shows that those potentials stay the same over time, making it possible to use this method over long periods of time – for example for security systems. The study also proves that only the minimum number of electrodes required for obtaining clean data has to be placed on the scalp of the person in order to measure his reactions – three (Armstrong et al., 2015).

Those reactions, the so-called ‘Brainprints’, are considered to be a very safe way to protect private property since they cannot be easily stolen by hackers as can be fingerprints or retina prints. Furthermore, finger or retina prints are not cancelable (they cannot be changed). You cannot simply get a new fingerprint or a new retina print. Once this kind of biometric data is compromised, it is not valuable for the use with security systems anymore. The biometric data from ‘Brainprints’, however, is indeed cancelable. In the case of a compromised ‘Brainprint’ through hacking activities, these ‘Brainprints’ can be reset, making this method of property protection very reliable (Birmingham University, 2015).

Do you think this innovation will turn into a technology that will be widely accessible to everyone in everyday life? Or do you think it will only gain relevance (if so at all) in a high security-seeking business or governmental context?
How do you personally feel about this new discovery? Would you rather stick to your analog passwords that you have gotten so used to? Or are you looking forward to a future where you do not need to remember all those annoying password variations anymore?


Armstrong, B. C., Ruiz-Blondet, M. V., Khalifian, N., Kurtz, K. J., Jin, Z., & Laszlo, S. (2015). Brainprint: Assessing the uniqueness, collectability, and permanence of a novel method for ERP biometrics. Neurocomputing.

Binghamton University, State University of New York. (2015, June 2). Brain’s reaction to certain words could replace passwords. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 8, 2015 from

TheGuardian (2015). US government hack stole fingerprints of 5.6 million federal employees. Retrieved from

People! Let’s rate each other!

Everyone must be familiar with online rating sites such as Yelp and Iens. They are really useful in the current enormous diversity in offers, because we simply cannot go try out everything ourselves. Therefore these guides and reviews can help us judge beforehand whether something is worth investing time and money in it or not. Now, a 33-year-old Canadian woman came with a “brilliant” idea, same concept but then a bit different: Peeple, as the name already suggest it is about people.


Peeple is an upcoming app that allows users to rate fellow people using a one- to-five-star rating scale.  To use the App you need to sign up for the App with Facebook using your authentic name and you need be at least 21 years old.

The person doesn’t have to use the app himself/herself to being rated, you can create a public profile to rate somebody that is not present on the App with their phone number. After the profile has been created they will be notified with a text message that they are now added to Peeple, however they won’t have the option to erase their profile from the app (Sollosi, 2015).


Reviews with a rating of three stars and above, the so-called “positive reviews”, will be posted on the profile immediately, whereas reviews with two stars and below, also known as the negative reviews, must be reviewed by the person concerned and the review will be held in a private inbox for 48 hours to allow the persons involved to talk it out. If they didn’t manage to solve the problem privately, the negative review will be posted anyways. So currently the only safe option men can think of is not to register on the app, because in this way only reviews with three stars and above will be posted (Shandrow & Lee 2015). But honestly this sounds ridiculous to me, you can still talk bad about someone and give a 3+ star rating and it will be shown on the profile immediately, right? 

Ok, let’s assume that the App has a sort of detection mechanism that can filter out bad words to prevent such happening. But hey, there are so many ways that I can think of to insult someone yet without using single bad word. The only way I can think of they can exclude this problem is to check each review manually, which would be a impossible thing to do, because the contents are (1) subjective and (2) it is simply too much work.

The App has raised $250,000 funding in just two weeks which means there are people demanding for it and currently Peeple is already valued at 7.6 million US dollars. “What?! :^0” Despite the rain of criticisms, the App is going to launch in November this year starting in US (Vincent, 2015).

So, do you support the release of this App or should it never see the sunlight?



– Sollosi, M. (2015) ‘Yelp for people’ app will let you ‘rate’ real-life human beings, 7 Oktober 2015.

– Shandrow, K.L. (2015) This Creepy, Yelp-Like App Lets You Rate People Like Restaurants,, 7 Oktober 2015.

– Lee, T.B. (2015) Why Peeple, the “Yelp for people,” shouldn’t freak you out,, 7 Oktober 2015.

– Vincent, J. (2015) Peeple is the ‘Yelp for people’ app your mother warned you about,, 7 Oktober 2015.